Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Here we go again

Yep. Back up on the soapbox again. Because I'm a bit peeved. Imagine that. And this time I don't have to write the post and let it marinate. Nope. This post is the result of two posts I have read in the last week. I wrote most of it in my head last night on my way home. After the first post, I was ready to let it go but when I saw the same thing in a second post yesterday? Well, the gloves are off. And the earrings as well.

What's the topic this time? Talking in movie theaters. I have one simple rule. If it's about the movie, then it's perfectly OK. Why? Because it's a part of my culture. And I was a little worried after my reaction to the first post, so I called several friends and family members. And I had an email exchange with another blogger on the topic.

My discussion with the other blogger centered around film as an art form. My argument is that if one were to go to a museum with a friend, one would discuss the art while standing in front of it. The blogger then countered that going to a movie was like going to hear a public speaker. Well, at least two of the people to whom I spoke on the topic confirmed that it is also culturally OK to speak when going to hear a speaker. One of these folks, my aunt, mentioned "call and response." Because how is hearing a speaker any different from hearing the preacher at the church?

And what pisses me off is not that people do not like this behavior. Instead, it's that their statements imply that their way is the "right" way. And even more so, what really pissed me off is that they do not appear to care why people would do this. And that shows a complete lack of cultural sensitivity on their part, in my opinion.

One of the folks to whom I spoke was Kate, my college roomie who got married back in June. She pointed out that when movie theaters were first created, going to the movies was a social event -- and of course, one would speak to others at a social event. She also pointed out that she enjoys the comments from others in the theater because it gives her new perspectives. Isn't that what art is about? Interpreting what the artist has presented given your own experiences? But your experiences may not be the same as another person's and so they can open a door to a world that you may not have seen otherwise.

And then we discussed our college experience. My post-high school educational experiences were in environments in which understanding of others was highly important. I served on numerous committees that made this the focus. People were encouraged to ask questions so that they could better understand one another. I guess that is the heart of the matter for me. When I read certain posts in the PRB and the subsequent comments, I find myself wondering if people are questioning their prejudices. Because we all have prejudices. If you say you don't, you're lying to yourself. It's what we do about these prejudices that makes the difference.

Finally, let's get to my reaction to this all. What I hear when someone makes a statement about how people shouldn't talk in movie theaters is that, once more, I am being asked to assimilate. (And if you have been in a theater in which the people of color are not speaking up? Yeah, they've assimilated. Because when I go to theaters in Berkeley, the audience is often mighty pale and I sit there silently. Because when in Rome... Because how we act when we are in the presence of the paler nation is not necessarily how we are at all times.) Guess what? I'm tired of assimilating. I'm tired of feeling like I have to give up everything that is me to fit in. (If my mother read this, this would be the point at which I would say, "Yes, the older I get, the more radical my thoughts become.") And damned if I haven't assimilated quite a bit. I regularly hear from older relatives how I am the "whitest black person they know." And so I am not going to let others erase the last vestiges of my culture that I hold at this point.

So the next time you hear someone talking in a movie theater, just think to yourself, "There goes the Empress again with her, 'Fuck you and your assimilation! I'm done with changing just because you seem to think that I need to.'" And also know that 2008 is officially the year in which I let people know in what ways they have pissed me off.

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